Trees are talking; Are we listening?

Have you ever wondered What Plants Talk About? If that sounds like too far out a question, check out the video by that title on pbs.org and enjoy a fascinating surprise! I was amazed to hear that we only see a third of the forest above ground. Below is a mind-blowing family network of roots and fungi working together in the two-thirds of the forest that is underground. We know that trees absorb carbon dioxide and the bigger the tree, the more it absorbs.

 The surprise for me was seeing and hearing about the network of fungi that coat all the roots and are part of a huge underground internet for fungus and tree families. And carbon is sucked down deep into their roots to be stored. Mother trees then send the bulk of the carbon as food to their young sprouts.  Fungi cover the roots and bring in organic nutrients to the trees while the trees feed carbs to the fungi – symbiosis at its finest.

 Because trees are capable of sucking up massive amounts of carbon dioxide, the more trees we have, the better our chances to decrease global warming. Energy problems invariably bring us to the realization that trees are key to our survival and cannot be exploited. Trees provide us with oxygen, heat, furniture, paper, tools, shade, and habitat for birds, squirrels, tree frogs and other members of the wildlife family. They also serve as holding tanks for water reserves and keep the land around them alive.

 I just gave Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse, another read. I hoped to understand the pattern that caused so many civilizations to collapse. I hoped to learned something to enlighten us lest we end up another collapsed civilization. In all of the collapsed civilizations, deforestation was a factor or the major factor. In this information age, we are the first civilization to have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

 Here’s the pattern that historically puts deforestation in motion: there was always a competitive streak among chiefs, priests, and rulers to outdo each other. Easter Island rival chiefs tried to do so with bigger and bigger statues. They cut down forests to provide the necessary staging to move the statues once completed. The last thing they did was to destroy each other’s statues. Having already destroyed their trees, they also destroyed wild life, water supply and soil, which led to starvation and cannibalism.

 We have a big medical system, big food companies, big agricultural conglomerates, big pharmacy, and big energy competitors. Their precedence threatens our trees, water, and soil. Finding out what worked and didn’t work in other cultures can help us make better choices for our future.

 Significantly, Japan has 73% of its land mass under forest management. Perhaps this has allowed the Japanese to recover from such devastating catastrophes.

As we reset our priorities this month, Earth Day can have special significance for us if we plant a tree as a symbol of our commitment to make saving our forests a top priority to keep each other well.

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